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Chess Boxing Is A Sport That Challenges The Body And Mind

Updated on July 23, 2015
Readmikenow profile image

Readmikenow likes sports, professional and amateur. He especially likes sports stories of courage and overcoming adversity.

Chess Boxing Tournament

Chess Boxing Participants
Chess Boxing Participants

When someone wants to prove they're intelligent, as well as a good fighter, the sport of chess boxing will appeal to them. This is a sport designed to combine thinking with athletic abilities. Participants are required to play chess for a specified amount of time between rounds of boxing.


The idea for chess boxing was conceived by the French comic book writer named Enki Bilal. He wrote about it in his graphic novel “ Froid Équateur. In the graphic novel, two featured characters play chess after boxing. In 2003 chess boxing was brought to life by a Dutch performance artist named Lepe Rubingh. He participated in an exhibition of chess boxing that took place in Amsterdam. The idea of boxing and playing chess then quickly grew in popularity around the world. In 2005, the European Chess Boxing Championship was held. In 2013. The World Chess Boxing Championship took place in Moscow.


In order for a person to participate in chess boxing, they must have accomplished a certain level of success in boxing. They also are required to be a Class A strength chess player. There have been chess players who have obtained the rank of grandmaster and participated in the sport.


Officials watch closely to notice if any player is stalling. If a player is accused of stalling during the play of chess, the game is automatically forfeited. If a player is checkmated or quits, he loses the match. Each round of boxing lasts for three minutes. It is scored on a ten-point system. Winning at either the chess portion or the boxing portion is how the match is decided. If there is no clear winner at the end of the chessboxing match, the victory is usually given to the player who used black pieces during the chess match.

Governing Bodies

The sport of chess boxing has two different governing bodies. The World Chess Boxing Organization (WCBO) is headquartered in Berlin, Germany. The World Chessboxing Association (WCBA) is headquartered in London, England. Every year both organizations host several chessboxing tournaments around the world.


A chess boxing match lasts 11 rounds. It consists of 6 rounds of chess as well as 5 rounds of boxing. The boxing and chess rounds alternate during the match and ends by a round of chess. Each round of boxing or playing chess lasts 3 minutes. The amount of time dedicated to playing chess is 18 minutes. This consists of 9 minutes for each player. When a chess round is finished, the precise setup is recorded digitally. Each chess piece is set up exactly as it was before the boxing round prior to the chess round beginning. The break between each round of either chess or boxing is 60 seconds. The exact fight times will change with amateur or youth chess boxing matches.

Chess game during chess boxing match
Chess game during chess boxing match


The winner of a chess boxing match is determined in a number of different ways. A person can win a match by knockout, technical knockout when boxing. A checkmate, taking too much time, inactivity or attempting to extend the chess play time, opponent resigns during the chess rounds. If a chess boxer quits neither of the participants will win and the chess game will be declared a draw. At the end of the match, the fighter who is ahead in boxing points will win. If there is a boxing and chess draw, the player with the black chess pieces will be declared the winner.

Skills and Training

A person who participates in chess boxing will need to have proven skills in both chess as well as boxing before they are permitted to participate in the sport. Their Elo rating must be 1600. An Elo rating is a system that determines the skill level of each person when it comes to games such as chess. Prior to a person participating in chess boxing, they must have successfully fought in a minimum of 50 amateur boxing or martial arts matches. Most participants are experienced with speed chess. It is different from the traditional chess game. Each player is only given a set amount of time to make a move. A chess boxer trains to be able to handle the changes from boxing to playing chess. They must be able to control their mind as well as their body. The mental and physical challenge of chess boxing requires players to be able to think clearly while being exhausted.

Specialized Training

Most participants in chess boxing have a history of training in both chess and boxing. This sport requires specialized training. The fighters try to develop the skills necessary to develop a rhythm of boxing and then playing chess. Sparring is often combined with a game of speed chess. There are also strength exercises, intensive cardio exercises and playing a game of chess between each physical training session.

Chess Boxing Documentary

There was a feature-length documentary made about the sport of chess boxing. It is called “Chessboxing: The King's Discipline.” The documentary follows the development of the sport during a three year period of time. Viewers are able to see the sport's promoters in cities around the world such as London, Los Angeles and Berlin try to provide their vision for chess boxing to the mainstream. It also provides the opinions of individuals from the world of chess and boxing. Most people are surprised by the concept of a sport that would combine the mental and physical capabilities of an athlete.

News Story About Chess Boxing Documentary

Global Phenomena

Since chess boxing made its start, the sport has evolved into a global phenomenon. Today there are over 379 active members of the World Chess Boxing Organization. There are various affiliate groups scattered all over Europe, Asia and North America. The chess boxing club in Berlin alone as more than 449 members. This club as 80 members who train daily to participate in chess boxing tournaments. A chess boxing club recently was started in India and their first championships took place in Kolkata, India. Some of the larger clubs are in Los Angeles as well as China.

Weight Classes

These are the weight classes for professional chess boxing events

MEN (17 years old and over

  • Lightweight: Max. 154 lbs/70 kg

  • Middleweight: Max. 176 lbs/80 kg

  • Light heavyweight: Max. 198 lbs/90 kg

  • Heavyweight: Over 198/ 90kg or more

WOMEN (17 years old and over)

  • Lightweight: Max. 121 lbs/55 kg
  • Middleweight: Max. 143 lbs/65 kg

  • Light heavyweight: Max. 165 lbs/75 kg

  • Heavyweight: Over 165 lbs/75 kg

Chess Boxing Tournament


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    • Readmikenow profile image

      Readmikenow 3 years ago

      I also found it fascinating. It is real and they have championship tournaments where people win money. I can't imagine anything like this being done in the NFL or pro basketball.

    • mosaicman profile image

      mosaicman 4 years ago from Tampa Bay, Fl

      Very interesting topic. I didn't know that was a real sport. I just thought it pertained to Kung Fu Movies and the Wu Tang Clan.